Review: Don’t You Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn
Published June 10th by HarperTeen
Review copy provided by publisher
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that if the book is weird and crazy, Celine will love it. And Don’t You Forget About Me is all kinds of crazy. It’s a frigging rainbow of crazy.
Every four years, the teens in Gardnerville go mental. They blow shit up, murder, commit suicide, or simply explode up because of pent up energy. During a bad fourth year, someone made the sky go dark for six years. And during one particular fourth year, Piper made fourty teens jump off a bridge to their death. Skylar, Piper’s younger sister, is now left behind. Skylar tries to forget, but there are just some memories that are so persistent they cannot be ignored.
It’s hard to describe what Don’t You Forget About Me is like, because it’s hard to compare it to other books. It’s often vague, at times confusing, sometimes creepy, and crazy in a wonderfully calculated way. For a big chunk of the book the reader is kept in the dark as to what exactly is going on, analogous with Skylar, until everything fits together perfectly in the end. It’s easy to come up with strange ideas and throw them into a story, but it takes extreme skill to make everything wrap up like Ms Quinn did.
Skylar, the main character, is not easy to like. She’s not particularly nice, has a pretty bad drug addiction and an obsession with her older sister. She’s not bubbly, or self-sacrificing, or cute. She’s bitter and hurt and holds secrets, even from herself. In short, she’s what happens to a human when they see their sister kill dozens of teens. And yet she still loves Piper, and longs to find her in the Reformatory on the edge of Gardnerville, where Piper has been locked up.
The story alternates between the running narrative of Skylar battling her demons, and memories from Skylar of years back adressed to Piper. At first I was a bit bored with these memories, thinking they were only meant to make us sympathise with Skylar and Piper, but in the end they turned out to be about more than that.
Don’t You Forget About Me is not an easy read. It’s packed with emotion, especially towards the end. It’s filled with themes like drug addiction, terror, child abuse (subtle, but there), grief, disillusionment, and some seriously messed up families. At times, it’s not a pretty story. Don’t You Forget About Me resembles a cat that has matted fur, lost and eye, has crooked ears and has a limp, that nevertheless (or maybe because of it) becomes something close to your heart. This book is probably not one that will appeal to everyone, but if you think you can handle the oddness, give it a shot. For me the book that comes closest to it in comparison is The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. Only then with a town where no one dies from illnesses, and with rats and fairy lights that kill and people that can control emotions and a magic train that brings fresh cattle.
Welcome to Gardnerville.
A place where no one gets sick. And no one ever dies.
There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them.
Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all.
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